Supremecy Issue in Romantic and Family Relations.
Business. Nothing Personal.
Female Sexuality Presentation.
Presentation of Woman in Daily Life .
The Children of Tarantino.
Sometimes the psychiatrist asks the patient to draw something, to continue the story – or, to put it another way, she or he employs IMAGINATION tests. The results of such tests show a lot – the things the patient thinks of, what is their life, what is their attitude towards various social phenomena, in other words you can compose a psychological portrait of the object. The work of imagination, its products – thoughts and art always speak of the epoch, and observer having analyzed that may compose a sort of psychological portrait of the society that gave birth to one or another work of art. As Jung notes, the practise of art is a psychological activity, and as such, it can be approached from a psychological perspective [Jung, 1917]. The same approach can be applied to the cinema. Nevertheless it reflects subjective world of the creator, it’s a product of individual and, to a certain extent, collective work that cannot escape marks of society and epoch. In this connection it’s reasonable to regard film projects which were both box office and critics’ success, since it’s a Zeitgeist and simplicity indicator.
In what follows, I’ll try to study works of the director who is both a commercial (his second movie’s home box office - $100 million) and critics’ success (he is titled Mark Twain of the 90s), who had his impact on the movie world on the whole – has a lot of followers in the mainstream and art-house – Quentin Tarantino. He began with crime and film noir, but his stormy energy, effervescent dialogues and only his style of characters portrayal quietly and almost insensibly have brought notion “Tarantino movie” into common use and have made it a part of social mind. This notion suggests a certain unique universe, a movie universe, Tarantino universe, and a woman’s place in it is the subject of this essay.
The study has been focused on the works composed adhering to “the Trinity principle”, as I call it, – the principle of story/screenplay/directing being concentrated in one mind. Here, the story, screenwriting and directing should be Tarantino’s only, - projects that lack at least one of the three haven’t been regarded systematically. So, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, The Man From Hollywood (Four Rooms), Kill Bill vol. 1, Kill Bill vol. 2 are of the greatest importance, but I can’t ignore True Romance (screenplay), Natural Born Killers (first draft script), Jackie Brown (screenplay/directing) also.
As any world, that of Tarantino consists of its residents’ activities, hence the position of woman has been just superficially regarded in a number of spheres, - sex, romantic and family relations (which very often intersect, since HIS family usually consists of two members – a wife and the husband, and only twice HE adds a child – to the Bells and to Bill and Beatrix (Kill Bill), business, the image of female sexuality, a female in daily life, and Kill Bill’s kids image as a separate section.
To get a more systematic picture I’ll be giving comparative analysis of gender stereotypes and the break of or, to the contrary, adherence to them in Tarantino world. The works of F. Nietzsche and O. Weininger serve as a source of such stereotypes. This way or another we owe these people gender sociological characterisation of their epoch or even that of the world since the dawn of time till the early twentieth century. They described, derived and preserved basic reasons (more social than biological) of gender inequality. They gave us the core, logical basis of gender stereotypes; though unintentionally, they had also diagnosed “ill” society which turned to be a critical step on the way to convalescence. Now we can compare the past with the present and calculate the disparity. But still the frame of this study is limited to the borders of Tarantino universe only; my focus is not on the image of woman in movies or nowadays world , but merely in one mind’s works, great and influential, but yet one.
Nietzsche’s world (read “the world long before sexual revolution of the 60s, and 90s”) with its critical principle “The happiness of man is, "I will." The happiness of woman is, "He will" [Nietzsche, 1883, part XVIII]apparently has passed away since happiness of woman is different now, to say the least – she cares for what she wills, she is looking for pleasure for herself too. And there is an evidence of a certain alteration in the attitudes.
First on the list is the Big Don scene (True Romance) that was censored and cut severely had contained a remarkable [from gender point of view] conversation concerning cunnilingus. What is interesting, one of the interlocutors, Floyd by name, is against such a practice for it “lowers” men, especially black men. He shows considerable talent for thinking in abstract terms and even conveys his own historical review on the matter stating that once women didn’t know anything about it, and men felt good, then in 60s “little sisters” made white guys to “go down”, and now it’s become commonly accepted making troubles for the guy who refuse to be “disgraced”. But still the very atmosphere of the scene has heralded rather approving attitude towards “new practice” and both female and male consent on the topic. And it is Big Don (brilliantly played by Samuel L. Jackson) who sounds this idea stating that he “does everything” and doesn’t regard it reprehensible at all.
The cunnilingus topic was continued in Pulp Fiction. Here you can’t find moral or grace issue discussion about the act, just the fact of carrying it out, what is more, it is presented as a usual and common act since it went such in the 90s. In The Gold Watch story Fabian nice and simply asks Butch to give her that pleasure. Though he asks for the equal service the director focuses on Fabien’s face during Butch’s activity for a few seconds, while “the return service” (if there ever was such) is totally ignored by the Creator.
Women mentioned above also could positively discuss their preferences and provide Dr. Freud with material in contrast to those women in whom “it is veiled in impenetrable darkness, partly in consequence of cultural stunting and partly on account of the conventional reticence and dishonesty of women.” [Freud]. But it’s rather happiness of people of different sex that is alike (we can’t say “person” as there are still women and men, not humans in HIS world) that we can speak of in Tarantino universe.
Supremacy Issue in Romantic and Family Relations.
The initiative belongs to the MAN only. As Weininger claims: “the woman makes it a criterion of manliness that the man should be superior to herself mentally, that she should be influenced and dominated by the man; and this in itself is enough to ridicule all ideas of sexual equality”[Weininger, paragraph 248], Tarantino doesn’t derive from this.
Alabama is quiet and obedient, Clarence (True Romance) sends her out to buy some meals, when on the main appointment, she neither says nor suggests anything, but is waiting for the order taking a hold of her breath. Once Clarence hesitates, even now she is just waiting for his word not daring give advice.
Mallory doesn’t sound her position during the whole script (Natural Born Killers), while the dashing orator in court is Mickey, who is crushing both the witness and the prosecutor by his arguments and “set-ups”. Mallory in turn plays a little helper’s role, - almost the ideal secretary of the 30s - Della Street, -laughing at the jokes and saluting success of her man.
Honey Bunny also gives a big deal of heed to Pumpkin, being his helper, sometimes gives ideas such as to collect wallets in one store, but in the context of the coffee shop it is Pumpkin who has developed and framed it. Jules communicates with Honey Bunny indirectly, through her man, suggesting that he should handle his woman, underlining different position of female and male actors. The married couple “made in heaven” – Jody and Lance also make up a cell of Tarantino society. Lance considers Jody to be her server, what is remarked by her in the sarcastic hint that it’s good to say “thank you”. It’s notable that the creator himself is conscious of humble position of Jody’s since Pam Grier when auditioned for this part was refused on the grounds that Tarantino couldn’t imagine her being pushed like the character was [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110912/trivia]. Fabians can tell Butch how he should call him but the privilege to choose channels is his.
Tarantino exposes different levels of patriarchal society, there are women dependent on their men, either economically or psychologically.
Ordell’s paying Melanie’s bills (Jackie Brown), but she tries to claim her rights on idleness and leisure. Thus when the phone rings and both of them are sure that it’s for him, they refuse to pick it up, each for their own reasons. Melanie looks at Ordell, he looks back at her – they, as Tarantino says, have a bit of stare contest which usually results in Melanie heading for the phone and answering it.
Mr. Bell is making money while his wife Mrs. Bell (Kill Bill) keeps the house, takes care of her daughter and attends local housewives festivals. A family idyll, - a suburb house, quiet block, minivan (it’s for sure, they have it, no matter it’s never been in the frame) and an ice cream truck, - family life standard, praised in the TV-shows of the 60s (Bewitched, Father Knows Better).
Mr. Bill in his family (Beatrix and B. B.) has nonnegotiable authority. Despite his acknowledgement of her professional skills – he calls her a natural born killer, who has killed the best of the best, he is also perfectly aware of her goal and determination, still it is Bill who leads in the game, even in her game. She listens when He wants her to, She speaks when He wants her to and the battle the very core of their intersection begins no sooner than He finds it appropriate. And even in the end when we have “the winner”, and Bill is struck to death, in their phrase exchange he is an unappealable boss – she is almost apologizing for her match point, while he is comforting her telling that it’s OK and she is HIS best person. This is followed by rivers of tears and mucus and the main idea to be not sounded in the movie but stated in black and white in the script, that SHE is HIS woman only, and she will never be any other man’s woman.
There in lies a contradiction – Beatrix turns to be the strongest, PHYSICALLY strongest person of Kill Bill’s universe, while there is a biologically based stereotype – women are simply weaker, while psychologically can be stronger. Here we have total inversion of them – “B” is psychologically devastated by Bill, but Bill is PHYSICALLY eliminated by “B”.
The often confusion/contradiction phenomenon can be attributed to the well-known idiosyncrasies of Tarantino’s, or simply the work of his uncontrollable genius that just creates lives in the incomprehensible way.
There is also so-called “real life” phenomenon in Tarantino movies that amuses the critics, since the use of the word “real” in the context of the works of the director, who is in essence making movies on movies and like in the movies, seems, to say the least, misplaced. But nevertheless it is characters stunningly real and phantasmal at the same time that is one of HIS trademarks.
One of HIS “real” colours is Jules’s mention of his vegetarian girlfriend, which “more or less makes him a vegetarian”. However, it’s not clear what he implies, - either she is cooking and he cannot ask for meat for himself or only the girl orders at cafés, or he just realises an intimate person’s influence. In any event, he is not ashamed to admit this influence in public with respect for his partner. An interesting subject who is extremely concerned about his spouse or rather about her reaction to “the garage situation”, nervous and impulsive Jimmie is worth regard. He values his wife more than the friend, and again, he does it in public and consciously, and seems to have no raw feeling about that. In other words not the fact of female influence is noteworthy but the fact of its articulation.
Relations, though between liberated women and men are patriarchal in character.
Business. Nothing Personal.
Business relations are those where agents concerned interfere exclusively on the basis of professional need. For example, relations between Alabama and gagster Virgil (True Romance). Virgil needed “the black case”, Alabama knew where it was, but wasn’t eager to inform the hitman, so there relations turned to be prolonged and brutal. In classical variations of such a situation (the clash of male villain and female victim) a woman is presented either as a pleading for mercy victim (Seven), or as a majestic stoic, waiting for her male hero to save her (Sin City), or as a superhero with a rubber and invulnerable body (Charlie’s Angels). Tarantino copies none of these clichés. His Alabama is a live girl with a sleeping beast inside that every girl has, says the writer. This “beast” awakens once she realises that the game has been over and she is going to be taken off it. Alabama says to herself if to leave than to take at least a piece of her killer with herself. This resulted in a life and death combat – all the items in her reach, from a TV set to the hairspray, were of a great use. This scene suffered censorship as well and what struck the critics more was unusually aggressive, almost inhuman resistance of the victim, she looked more like a beast than a human, to say nothing about her similarity to a woman [Dawson, p.56].
Jackie Brown is a movie almost completely devoted to business relations. And female character is lead while Nietzsche stated “Where there is neither love nor hatred in the game, woman's play is mediocre”[Nietzsche, 1886, item 115]. Jackie herself is a very strong figure and in others’ attitudes there’s no hint on discrimination. She is able to rebuke Ordell who is rather her boss than subordinate. When it is necessary to discuss details, he invites her to apartment that creates mute conflict between her and another girl, a female supporting character, Melanie. Ordell sends her out of the apartment what she takes highly disapprovingly and demonstrates her protest. Melanie’s perception of herself as Ordell’s girlfriend suggests loath subjection, but the greater discomfort she suffers being temporarily “exiled” because of another woman, who is (for Melanie) not only her man’s business partner, but simply another woman and doesn’t deserve more respect than Melanie herself. As the author informs us she’s been different men’s dependant since her youth, gradually getting farer from downtown (some girls do it vice versa), not thinking of a future, not living in the present, having only a little splinter of the past on her fridge, - a fragment of the photo with the hand of her early period man. She tries to make friends with Jackie later, but fails for too long she’s been a slave to be a friend [Nietzsche, 1883, part XVIII].
Another remarkable character is Simone, an acquaintance, which having worked as a middleman once, disappears with the money. I. e. the episodic character is just a person of female gender lacking stereotypes.
We have a lot of works written on movies directed at women, movies with female character lead, but practically none of them focuses on female episodic appearances, what is a real omission. The main focus of filmmakers is usually directed at the story and the development of the main characters, while they waste minimum so-called conscious work, energy, they are created almost automatically. In other words filmmakers take cliché from the unconscious, the part of the mind where natural and accepted truths dwell. So, we can speak of defeat of sexism if it leaves the unconscious, when “little” characters get free from gender stereotypes. As Schopenhauer notes A man shows his character just in the way in which he deals with trifles,--for then he is off his guard [Schopenhauer, section 29]. Thus a female cop in the nth row mob is of greater importance for global liberation progress than the whole “Get Christie Love” show. Or a faceless/genderless girl of the Crazy 88 than “the very” Beatrix. That girl earns her daily bread by her fighting skills without having sexual intercourse with the boss (like “B” did), she is neither “mother” nor “prostitute” while Weininger claims these roles to be the only possible for women[Weininger, paragraph 704].
It is even truer in the criminal circles, where there is no defence from the state, where primal laws prevail, and strength is valued, physical and that of mind, sphere that oppresses women most. If women appear in this sphere we can speak of profound breaks in the social mind and mentality on all the levels of its organisation.
Reservoir Dogs scenes with female drivers got rudely taken out of their cars or shot have been criticised and titled misogynistic. But you try to analyze them properly you’ll see that in the first case Mr. Pink acted according to the involved situation, and treated the female driver just like a driver – he didn’t care for the gender of the driver of the car, that he wanted to see as his getaway one, i.e. he appeared to be gender advanced.
In the second case Mr. Orange acted to “his” female driver as to the HUMAN who had shot him and he simply delivered a riposte. A brighter example of intergender attitudes in Tarantino world is Joe Cabot’s (Reservoir Dogs) interest in Alabama (True Romance), so “hiring” Dimmik he had expected him to have come together with Bama. Joe wanted to see her as a part of the team, they discussed her professional skills, and in other words they appreciated her in their mind operations putting the gender point aside.
There is another, little and inconspicuous at first sight, revolution started by Margaret and Co (Four Rooms) in the sphere traditionally considered to be all male, a kind of sanctuary, the last outpost of masculinity in a changing world, - videogames sphere. When the party is over girls are playing videogames, they are not doing it for men, or inspired by them like in other visual works (Coupling TV-show), and they are playing because THEY LIKE it. The girls are totally lost doing that, they hate to be disturbed even to answer a simple question. Also noteworthy is Margaret’s interest in another traditionally male area, - weapons. Ted, a man, evidently is losing in their dialogue not only in the awareness of the gun modification details, but also what is more important in enthusiasm for the topic. He obviously feels uncomfortable talking about instruments of violence while Margaret really enjoys conversation, she is eager to discuss details, and in a sense she is interrogating the chap.
On the whole only a few stereotypes and sexism marks are present in HIS works, - but at large, it’s notorious “reality” only, - a concrete person with concrete material needs, neither a mother, nor a prostitute, again – just a living being. The same can be applied in regard to all of Tarantino characters.
Female Sexuality Presentation.
Tarantino female sexuality is usually concentrated in the main heroine. As the author himself admits, - working he has got audience in mind, but it’s not just a faceless crowd, it’s a concrete person – Quentin Tarantino. So the main female characters are those who turn him on, they materialise his fantasies; hence regarding these females unconsciously we regard the personality and psycho-emotional portrait of the creator. In his perception sexuality consists of that of personality and of the body.
This personality is always smart. While Jung contends that thinking is for men only [Jung, 1921, p. 442] it’s Mia who articulates Tarantino’s notable and such a personal binary-world theory. According to it the world consists only of two kinds of people – Elvis people and Beatles people, Bewitched people and Genie people and so on. It’s Mia again who states psycho – philosophical generalization of human communication relations, sounding all the absurdity of necessity to be saying ANYTHING to feel comfortable.
This personality is always witty and can stand up for herself in the conversation, like Angela (Four Rooms) who was able to strike the man that had offended her, easily and without external help.
This personality can be enterprising and possess an exceptional mobility of neural process. Jackie Brown (Jackie Brown) has beaten the whole criminal gang and FBI agents, escaping reprisals from one side and imprisonment from another, - plus she has got times richer.
This personality can be physically strong. Especially Tarantino savours characteristic “lethal”and word “killer”. Female sexuality combined with violence is merchandise that many men purchase, the author including. But HIS combats differ from those in typical femme fatal movies of recent decades. His fight scene is not a combat of girls in EXTREMELY tight outfit, consisting of shots with actresses frozen in sexy poses, where they really rather pose than fight or at least act. Pointing out two battles of Tarantino’s – The Bride and Vernita’s, The Bride and Elle’s, - you can definitely state they are real to the extent you can speak of reality in the context of cinematography as an art of illusion. Professional and sharp-cut hits are being delivered having only one goal [that is] to strike the opponent; skin is cleaved, sweat stands out on their forehead, everything within the reach of the hand is put to use, blood floods over the face, completing the masterpiece, donating to high and world art in general. In the first place these pictures incarnate “body” sexual fantasy, material one of the Master. To confirm the point one may recollect Mia’s question whether Vince ever imagined to be beaten up by a girl, he replied: “sure”. All the characters of any work of literature are the author himself, like in a dream everyone is the dreamer, but one of the characters bears the main load of the creator’s personality, and in Pulp Fiction it is Vince.
Now sexuality of the body. On this point the Master isn’t inventive and presents a tall slender blonde as his ideal. But what is absolutely unique is HIS respect for a woman’s body – none of his four movies contains any female NUDITY (well, there is some in Four Rooms, but it’s so fleeting, that the only thing you notice is that there were naked girls, nothing is really seen). HIS women are beautiful, smart and self-confident, but still they are no more than “strong women” of patriarchal society. As one of the characteristic features of such society is the determination of a woman’s status according to her man’s [father, spouse] one, we can witness it in Pulp Fiction. Mia’s status is determined by her husband’s position,- when Vince brings her, dying of OD, to Lance, the latter doesn’t want to aid until he finds out that she is Marsellus Wallace's wife.
Presentation of Woman in Daily Life.
There’s been an immutable rule that all the workers of the Dream Factory follow – a woman in the frame should look sexy regardless of the story. It amuses to see a girl walking out from the shower in full make-up or gets up in the morning with a neatly arranged hairstyle, she can do whatever she wants to and her make-up and set are magically invariable, like “in the movies”.
Tarantino breaks usual stereotypes. Angela (Four Rooms) after swimming in the pool (shower) looks exactly like a person that has taken a shower – no make-up is seen, even if it is, but paradoxically, this way she looks much prettier than before. Jody’s hair (Pulp Fiction) when she gets up at 1:30 in the morning is tousled and real “natural” mess. The comatose bride (Kill Bill) doesn’t remind a cover-girl either, - just a “real” patient’s portrait – nether make-up, nor set.
Another point – female characters in bit parts of classic Hollywood which even at work are dressed as if for the disco. “Mark Twain” of the movies runs counter to this practice. Female drivers of “Reservoir Dogs” and traffic accident witnesses of Pulp Fiction are dressed “extremely” humdrum, the camera isn’t catching the erotic parts of the body, which are anyway covered with “everyday” and comfortable clothes, and their faces and hair are composed totally ignoring Hollywood standards of gloss and sexuality.
They controvert another point of Nietzsche’s that “one may say that woman would not have the genius for adornment, if she had not the instinct for the SECONDARY role.”[Nietzsche, 1886, item 145] These persons look like people that you meet in the street, real people, and watching HIS movies you think that it’s very likely to run into them one day, - these details in the aggregate put some touches to the illusion of Tarantino reality.
The Children of Tarantino.
Upbringing mirrors the laws of the corresponding society but also determines the image of a future one. In many respects stereotypes or traditions lighten the life, giving finished knowledge of how you should bring up a girl and how – a boy, what toys they should play, what cartoons watch, what to talk about.
And at this point, the Master unconsciously uses a gender advanced approach, - little B.B. (Kill Bill) plays with a gun and obviously it’s not for the first time, since the way she is holding “the weapon” is confident is cool, the toy doesn’t absorb all of her attention while it would if the gun was a recent gift, made expressly to shock the coming Mommy. B.B. is accustomed to the object and it gives her pleasure to play homicide. She is not “eternal good and non-violence”, as it’s accepted, she is inclined to violence as the most of PEOPLE are. She had killed Emilio, ingenuously and childishly, but still killed, she had harmed a living being (Emilio used to be her gold fish) to learn what would result. Cartoons she enjoys don’t leave a chance to stereotypes - Shogun Assassin (Kenji Misumi & Robert Houston, 1980), a cruel exploitation, which is perceived by the girl as an interesting story. In the light of all said, it’s questionable whether the “gender test” described in Greek mythology (when to find out who of the girls was a man in disguise, they placed arms and armor amidst a display of women's finery and seized upon Achilles when he was the only one [since man he was] who revealed his interest in weapons, while others – in adornment) [Encyclopedia Mythica, Achilles] would work now.
Nicky. Her glance only is filled with a samurai’s power and is heavy and guarded as that of a samurai. Having witnessed her mother’s homicide she doesn’t scream and cry, she is just watching. She is shocked but not the way it happens somewhere far away from Tarantino universe, it’s not hysterics, it’s a shock that will develop into “return strike”.
The rules of the Warriors’ world. It’s the world that is run not by men or women; it’s not ihn yahn world it’s a bipolar world but in a different way – the world of killers and victims. If you are not a killer, than you are a victim. Within this essay the goal has been to determine gender disposition in Tarantino world despite the Christian values issue. In absolute system his women are not altogether equal to men, in relative system they are quite independent (some – economically – DiVaS, others – emotionally – Mia, Angela), and that is an achievement, considering genre and woman’s position there since its conception - take Jean-Luc Godard’s
“I don't think you should feel about a film. You should feel about a woman, not a movie. You can't kiss a movie” for instance.
So, Tarantino world’s essence is cruel and unfair, there is discrimination, but it’s not sex discrimination, - it’s discrimination on the grounds of physical strength and “badness level”, the world of people weak in mind, fortunately their world is just a fancied one.
True Romance (screenplay only) at www.godamongdirectors.com
Natural Born Killers (original screenplay by Quentin Tarantino) at www.sfy.com
Reservoir Dogs, Dir. Quentin Tarantino. 1992. Live Entertainment (as Live America Inc.)
Dog Eat Dog Productions Inc.
Pulp Fiction, Dir. Quentin Tarantino. 1994. A Band Apart. Jersey Films. Miramax Films
The Man from Hollywood (in Four Rooms. Dir. Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino. 1994. A Band Apart. Miramax Films)
Jackie Brown, Dir. Quentin Tarantino. 1997. A Band Apart. Miramax Films (presented by)
Mighty Mighty Afrodite Productions (copyright owners). Lawrence Bender Productions.
Kill Bill vol. 1, Dir. Quentin Tarantino. 2003. Miramax Films. A Band Apart. Super Cool ManChu
Kill Bill vol. 2. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. 2004. Miramax Films. A Band Apart. Super Cool ManChu
Charlie’s Angels. Dir. McG. 2000. Columbia Pictures Corporation. Flower Films (II). Global Entertainment Productions GmbH & Company Medien KG. Tall Trees Productions.
Seven. Dir. David Fincher. 1995. New Line Cinema
Sin City. Dir. Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino (special guest director). 2005. Dimension Films
Dawson, J., "Quentin Tarantino: The Cinema of Cool", 1995, Applause Theatre Book Pub.
Encyclopedia Mythica, Achilles by James Hunter at http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/achilles.html
Freud S. Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex. Available at http://www.gutenberg.net/1/4/9/6/14969
Jean-Luc Godard, notable quotes at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/jeanluc_godard.html
Jung C. G. 1917. On The Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry. At http://www.studiocleo.com/librarie/jung/essay.html
Jung C. G. 1921. Psychological Types. At http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Jung/types.htm
Nietzsche F. 1883. Thus Spake Zarathustra. At http://www.gutenberg.net/1/9/9/8
Nietzsche F. 1886. Beyond Good and Evil. At http://www.gutenberg.net/4/3/6/3
Weininger O. Sex and Character. At http://www.phlogma.com/aporia/wein/sc/index.htm
Schopenhauer A. Counsels and Maxims. At http://www.gutenberg.net/1/0/7/1/10715